The phone beeps to signal a new social media post. An email will follow. There are footsteps coming from the corridor and the colleague sitting at the next table is laughing, possibly at a funny video he just saw. The summer’s most played hit is playing on the radio and thoughts are already turning to next week’s menu. Attention is drawn to everything else except what you should be doing, and it’s no wonder! Lack of concentration is one of the biggest challenges of today. It is understandable, because the flood of stimuli in the environment is huge.
Is good concentration a gift given at birth, or can it be improved when it is impaired? In this article, we will get to know what concentration is, how it can be supported and whether CBD oil could help with this!
What is focus?
Focusing is paying attention and concentrating on what is being done and what is essential in terms of the operation.
When you are deeply focused, you lose track of time, you immerse yourself in what you are doing and things seem to flow naturally. As a result of concentration, the quality of work improves, learning deepens and thinking can develop.
The background is the activity in the frontal lobe of the brain and concentration is the cooperation of the brain and nervous system. The frontal lobe matures until the teenage years, and the nerve connections related to concentration can be strengthened throughout childhood. The brain is plastic, which means it can change throughout life. The ability to concentrate can also be improved when it weakens.
The central nervous system’s neurotransmitter, dopamine, is central to brain activity related to concentration. Dopamine is produced not only in the brain but also in the gut and it carries signals between brain cells. Dopamine especially affects concentration, motivation, movement and the feeling of pleasure, as well as sleep, emotion regulation and energy balance. It also improves the general functioning of the brain. (1)
Difficulty concentrating is not uncommon and everyone has it at times. There may be other challenges in the background such as ADHD , depression or stress , but the flood of environmental stimuli that strongly affects concentration unfortunately touches and challenges everyone. Life is hectic and there is a lot to think about, instant videos are watched for hours a day and work and studying are interrupted by the disturbances coming from this environment. It’s as if the brain has already learned that the required time to focus on one thing is very short, and that’s why fidgeting is a weakness of the neural connection.
Poor concentration shows up as interruptions in thought. It seems that he does not understand what is being said, what is meant by the text, and even familiar tasks seem more difficult than they really are. My mind wanders somewhere else and it’s hard to get a grip on what’s going on.
The fast rhythm of life and the stimuli in the environment have made it very common for children and adults alike to have poor concentration. Concentration challenges are already common enough that its symptoms have their own term, attention deficit disorder (ADT).
ADT stands for Attention Deficit Disorder
ADT (Attention Deficit Trait) or concentration disorder is a relatively new term and it refers to the so-called self-acquired difficulty concentrating. R. Hallowelli, an American psychiatrist who treats ADHD patients, noticed that people suffering from hyperactivity, i.e. ADHD symptoms, but who do not have ADHD, i.e. a neurological abnormality in brain function, are coming to his office. He interpreted that they have self-acquired attention deficit disorder instead of congenital ADHD and coined the term Attention Deficit Trait (ADT) to describe the symptomatology. ADT is precisely difficulty concentrating caused by a flood of stimuli. (2,3)
Developing a child’s ability to concentrate
The frontal lobe continues to mature until adolescence, so childhood is a good time to pay attention to the development of concentration. When life is fast-paced, it is important to stop in peace at the edge of doing things and give the child experiences of moments where there are no distractions. Memory games, long-lasting role plays, crafts and arts, etc. help the child focus on one thing and strengthen the nerve connections needed for concentration. (4,5)
Concentration can be improved
Concentration can be improved in many ways, e.g. with supplements that support it. Magnesium is one of the most important minerals for the body and its deficiency is very common. Taking a good magnesium supplement can have a positive effect on the ability to concentrate and you can read about it more here. Similarly, e.g. L-theanine , the effects of which can be read here .
From the plant ashwagandha (herbaceous plant) and Ginkgo Bilopa (maiden hair tree) can also help with concentration. In addition to these, medicinal mushrooms such as lion’s mane can be helpful.
Vitamins of the B group obtained from food and glucose, a monosaccharide belonging to carbohydrates, are the most significant in terms of concentration. B group vitamins are most abundant in e.g. in beans, sprouts, dairy products and nutritional yeast flakes. Glucose e.g. in dried fruit, fresh fruit and dried fresh vegetables such as carrots. (6)
The ability to concentrate can also be improved by practicing concentration. As with children, an adult’s concentration is also improved by such hobbies that require concentration and deepening. Reading a book, doing crafts, learning new skills, etc. put the brain to work and help in the formation of new nerve connections.
Concentration can be supported by taking care of general well-being. A life as stress-free as possible, exercise, a sufficient amount of good sleep , clean and nutritious food, and moments without smart devices provide a good basis for the ability to concentrate, but it should also be supported with, for example, conscious stopping. Daily moments when you just be, listen and observe and don’t do or think about anything, help the nervous system to calm down and create new connections.
Concrete actions at the workplace and at school can also increase the possibility of concentration. You can’t always change the environment, but by openly discussing the need for peace of mind at work and, for example, by using noise canceling headphones, you can achieve the desired peace for your own work.
Music affects concentration
Many people know from experience that music deepens the effect, and this is also confirmed by research. Others need a little noise in the background of their work, while others need silence, but mostly rhythmic music supports everyone’s concentration. According to American research, it is not so much the tempo or nature of the music that is important, but the rhythm in it. (7,8)
The endocannabinoid system underlying attention
The endocannabinoid system is a balancing system of the human body, whose task is to ensure that all bodily functions take place correctly and on time. The endocannabinoid system consists of endo- or internally-born cannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors and the enzymes that break them down.
Endocannabinoids are formed in many places in the body, but usually only when needed. There are two known endocannabinoids, anandamide and 2-AG . In the background of concentration, they influence e.g. dopamine production (9) and brain function (10).
Cannabinoids to support concentration
The hemp plant contains many different active compounds, the most familiar of which are cannabinoids. There are more than 120 different types of cannabinoids and this is probably the most famous CBD ( cannabidiol). Other cannabinoids have also been studied and, apart from CBD, CBG or cannabigerol may have the greatest effect on concentration.
CBD oil is extracted from hemp and, according to research, it has numerous properties that affect the well-being of both humans and animals. In the background of concentration, cannabidiol, or CBD, may have a positive effect sleep quality , which you can read more about here. Sstress, which you can read about the interaction with CBD here, and depression, which you can read more about here . According to studies, cannabidiol also has calming effects on the nervous system.
CBD may not directly affect the ability to concentrate, but by helping the body towards balance, its effects most likely extend there as well. The brain plays a significant role in the background of concentration, and according to research, CBD increases blood circulation in those areas where e.g. learning and remembering takes place. (11)
Poor concentration is a common challenge for people of all ages, but there is an opportunity to improve it. There are many ways, but it is also important to stop and think about what might be the cause of poor concentration, so that you can rule out other possible causes such as depression, ADHD or other diseases affecting concentration. Concentration can be supported by e.g. by strengthening the nerve connections necessary for concentration, and with the help of versatile nutrition, supplements and quality sleep. Also CBD oil may be helpful for increasing and maintaining concentration. A new large-scale American study is currently underway on this topic, which will lead to a better understanding of activities related to concentration in the future (12).
- Wium M.. 2022. Science photo magazine. Dopamine – a multifunctional pleasure substance. https://tieku.fi/ihminen/elimisto/dopamine. Referenced 10/6/2023.
- Student Health Care Foundation. ADHD or even ADT? https://www.yths.fi/terveystieto/mielenterveys/keskittyminen/adhd-vai-sittenkin-adt/. 6.10.2023.
- Edward Hallowell. 2005. Harvard business review. Overloaded Circuits: Why Smart People Underperform. https://hbr.org/2005/01/overloaded-circuits-why-smart-people-underperform. Referenced 10/6/2023.
- Mannerheim Child Welfare Association. Supporting the ability to concentrate. https://www.mll.fi/vanhemmille/tietoa-lapsiperheen-elamasta/hyvinvointia-digiajassa/vauvana-ja-taaperona-digiajassa/median-vaikutuksista-pienen-lapsen-elamassa/keskittymiskyvyn-tukeminen/. Referenced 10/6/2023.
- Learning and Joy. Temper increases with age – this is how you support a child’s concentration and self-regulation skills. https://www.oppijailo.fi/tue-taitoja-nain-keskittymiskyky-ja-itsesaatelytaidot-kehittyvat. Referenced 10/6/2023.
- Fine. Department of Health and Welfare. Nutritional values. https://fineli.fi/fineli/fi/elintarvarkei . Referenced 10/6/2023.
- Hogenes M., Van Oers B., Diextra R. and Sklad M.. 2015. The effects of music composition as a classroom activity on engagement in music education and academic and music achievement: A quasi-experimental study. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/279160129_The_effects_of_music_composition_as_a_classroom_activity_on_engagement_in_music_education_and_academic_and_music_achievement_A_quasi-experimental_study. Referenced 10/6/2023.
- Stammeier J. and Wiksten A.. 2019. Too much noise? Is it difficult to concentrate?. https://yle.fi/aihe/artikkeli/2019/12/20/liikaa-melua-ja-halya-onko-keskittytymen-vaikeaa-tietyntyptinen-musiikki. Referenced 10/6/2023.
- Covey D., Mateo Y., Sulzer D., Cheer J., and Lovinger D.. 2017. Endocannabinoid modulation of dopamine neurotransmission. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5608040/. Referenced 10/6/2023.
- Zou S. and Kumar U.. 2015. Cannabinoid Receptors and the Endocannabinoid System: Signaling and Function in the Central Nervous System . https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5877694/. Referenced 10/6/2023.
- Bloomfield M., Green S., et al.. 2020. Sage Journals. The effects of acute cannabidiol on cerebral blood flow and its relationship to memory: An arterial spin labeling magnetic resonance imaging study. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0269881120936419. Referenced 10/6/2023.
- Laura Stewart, University of Northern Colorado. Cannabidiol and Focus Study (CBD-Focus). https://clinicaltrials.gov/study/NCT05189275#publications. Referenced 10/6/2023.